BOSTON — More than five years after former House Speaker Thomas Finneran pled guilty to obstruction of justice, the State Retirement Board on Thursday voted to strip the Mattapan Democrat of his pension and repay him the amount he contributed to his own retirement.
Finneran, in January 2007, pled guilty to one count of obstruction of justice related to charges brought against him by the U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan on testimony he gave under oath in a lawsuit stemming from the Legislature’s 2001 redistricting process.
Nicola Favorito, the executive director of the State Retirement Board, told the News Service that the board voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of Finneran’s hearing officer to revoke the former speaker’s pension based his admitted guilt to violating laws “applicable to his office.”
According to Favorito, Finneran contributed a little more than $110,000 to his retirement account during his 26-year career in the Legislature, a sum that accrued $32,000 in interest. Between Finneran’s official retirement from the House in January 2005 and his guilty plea, Finneran collected about $59,000 in retirement benefits that he is entitled to keep.
Because about $21,000 of the benefits he received came from his own contributions, Favorito said the state owes Finneran the balance of what he contributed to his fund without interest, or $89,000.
Finneran did not appear in person before the board on Thursday, and his attorney, Paul Hynes of Norwood, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The State Retirement Board immediately suspended Finneran’s retirement benefits after his guilty plea in 2007, but after a number of continuances at the request of Finneran and his attorney, the board finally held its hearing on April 24, 2012.
“The Hearing officer finds that because Mr. Finneran has been convicted of a criminal offense involving violations of the laws applicable to his office or position, the pension forfeiture provisions of Section 15(4) apply to him,” wrote Michael Sweeney, deputy general counsel and hearing officer for the state Treasury, in his recommendation to the board.
Sweeney contended that Finneran’s admission to obstructing justice during the redistricting lawsuit violated his oath of public officer, and therefore qualified for pension revocation. Finneran had been called to testify in his official capacity as speaker after the Black Political Task Force sued over objections to the redrawing of political boundaries for electoral districts in the 2001 redistricting effort undertaken by the Legislature.
Three counts of perjury against Finneran were ultimately dismissed in exchange for the guilty plea.
Finneran was first elected to the House in November 1978, serving 13 terms in the House and being selected by his fellow representatives as speaker five times before he resigned in October 2004. A conservative Democrat from Boston, Finneran left the House and took a $418,000 per year job as head of the trade group Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.
Finneran resigned from the Biotechnology Council in 2007 after pleading guilty, when he received a sentence of 18 months of unsupervised probation and a $25,000 fine. Remaining active on Beacon Hill as a lobbyist, Finneran hosted a morning talk radio show for five years on WRKO-AM before stepping down from the radio show this past May.